Last week during our Storm Stories we talked a bit about thunder, lightning, and earthquakes that the Israelites and Moses experienced on Mount Sanai. These events were undeniable ways that God chose to be present.
Anyone remember the big fun word for such things? THEOPHANY!
Pastor Gregg and I have enjoyed hearing some of you share about “Theophanies” in your own lives over the past week.
In this week’s edition of Storm Stories we will be issuing a flood warning.
Let’s take a moment today to remember the flood warning from Noah’s prospective…
The waters had all drained off and the ground was dry again when God hung a rainbow (explain Hebrew “bow”- God hanging his bow in the sky as if to say “we’re not fighting anymore”) in the sky to remind Noah of the promise “that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood” (Genesis 9:11). The way God explained it to Noah, “I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature that is upon the earth” (9:13).
If we think back to a covenant verses a contract, we are reminded that a contract is an agreement that although legally binding, can be broken. And once one party breaks the contract, the other party isn’t obligated to maintain their part of the deal. A covenant is different because it’s about give and take. When one party or person isn’t doing their share, the other party remains true to the promise and hangs in there. A covenant is God’s way of always keeping God’s promises to God’s people and of us always being in relationship with God- no matter how far we wander or try and run from God.
Noah though, like us, probably wondered if a rainbow was really going to keep God from bringing flood waters again….Water was after all the source of all life- drink in the desert, nourishment for crops, a necessity for commerce and transportation.
But now for Noah, it would be remembered and feared. Let’s face it, how did Noah really feel about having 2 termites on a lifeline built out of wood?
When the downpour finally stopped, Noah sent birds out to see if they could find any dry land anywhere, and he remembered watching them fly away until they were no bigger than flyspecks on a windowpane, remembered the feeling in his stomach when they finally flew back having found no place to land.
Perhaps, he remembered one of the doves…. and how upon return he reached out over the rail, the bird landing on the calluses of his upturned palm. With his eyes closed and tears on his cheeks, he had touched his lips to its feathers, and as he felt the panic of its bird’s heart, it had seemed to him that the whole world was just as fragile and as doomed.
This thought, a fragile world with frail creation, has kept me up nights for many weeks. You see, leaving here after the frenzy of Advent and Christmas, I was a ball of emotions as I headed to Cuba. I was excited and a little scared, but mostly felt that I was not in control. My thoughts turned to many things….but just think of this one. Many of you have flown before- did you ever stop to think that you cannot control that type of travel? Actually if you extrapolate that idea, you might come to the realization that I have over the past several weeks- we actually have control of very little. But when we release that control to God, we gain trust. When we release that control, we gain trust. And that trust is so much deeper that the desire to be in charge, to be right, to prove a point.
On our first morning and then for several days after, I was struck by the beauty of rainbows. This visible reminder of God’s promises to us was popping up at the most unexpectant times.
Like Noah perhaps looking at that dove, we too consider the fragility of human life and of the whole world. We have moments when we think that it can’t possibly get any worse…and then the dove comes back with no sign of dry land. The worst. Noah has to remain on the arc. We have to trust God, again. But in the eye of this storm, small steps of trust will lead God’s people to great moments of faithfulness.
After weeks, another dove came back to Noah with a sprig of olive in its beak, and the tops of the mountains began to reappear out of the watery waste, and now at last the great, glittering rainbow arched above him, and the great promise echoed in his ears. “Never again,” God had said, and Noah clung on to those words like a raft in a high sea.
We too can look for the rainbows as a reminder that God is always with us. With the rainbow tied around God’s finger to jog his memory, surely God would never forget that promise. No matter what the world thinks up- what harsh words are used as combat, no matter how bad things get- God’s promise is to hang up is bow- to stop fighting and to be in relationship with you and me.
What to do in this new land of promise and covenant? Noah goes and plants the first vineyard and invented wine. The way he figured it, wine would help him forget the dark past- maybe it would numb his memory of the past 40+ days. The times that everyone laughed at this mad man, the times he had to say no to people, the times he knew his family was disappointed.
Maybe, if all went well, would be like the champagne at a wedding that you toast the future with. And if all did not go well, if doubts and fears began to gather like rain clouds in his heart, then wine would help him ride out the storm within as before he’d ridden out the forty days and forty nights.
In the meantime, he would keep his eye on the rainbow and his hand near the corkscrew and try to be fruitful and multiply just the way God had told him and his seven-time great-grandfather Adam before him.
Sometimes we too will be made weary of the storms in life and watch the flood warnings. Sometimes we too feel like Noah and at our absolute best can only try to muster up the will to be faithful. Sometimes we too would be wise to remember God’s promise- to Noah with every rainbow- and to each of us through Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:42-47, Genesis 6:9-22